Idaho Energy Update
June 5, 2009
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has approved a quartet of Idaho Power rate hikes, while PacifiCorp filed its plan to meet future energy needs and Idaho Power was granted a request to delay filing its plan until the end of the year. And the Elmore County Commission will begin discussing a rezoning request by developers of a would-be nuclear reactor on the Snake River. Also, Boise Mayor David Bieter plans to open a green business incubator, and IDACORP has placed the transcript of its annual shareholder meeting online. That’s the meeting where shareholders voted for an initiative directing Idaho Power to prepare a plan for how it expects to reduce is greenhouse gas emissions.
For more on these developments and others, please read on.
Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
I: Idaho Power: PUC Approves Rate Increases
The Public Utilities Commission has approved four Idaho Power requests that combined will increase rates by more than 13 percent.
The largest increase comes from Idaho Power’s annual “power cost adjustment,” which is filed every spring to reflect changing costs of providing power from the company’s hydro system and coal and gas plants. This increase is separate from the recent rate case. According to the PUC, this is the company’s third-largest PCA in 16 years of the adjustments. The PUC approved an increase of 10.2 percent.
The PUC also approved Idaho Power’s request to increase the customer conservation charge from 2.5 percent to 4.75 percent. The so-called “energy efficiency rider” supports a variety of utility energy efficiency and conservation programs designed to reduce Idaho Power’s average energy requirements as well as its growing summer “peak” demand that comes largely from air-conditioning and irrigation demands. The increase will raise about $10 million more for those programs, or about $30 million a year. The increase was supported by the NW Energy Coalition and others, although the NWEC told the PUC the increase is still not enough to capture all potential cost-effective energy savings in the company’s territory.
And the PUC approved the company’s annual “fixed-cost adjustment,” which is in the middle of a three-year pilot to determine the impacts energy-saving measures have on revenue collections. Also known as “decoupling,” the idea is to remove disincentives to promote energy saving measures, which if successful will reduce Idaho Power’s overall sales. The increase is small; about 1.3 percent.
Finally, the PUC approved Idaho Power’s request to begin including in rates some of the $71 million it will spend to replace old meters with new digital ones as part of the “advanced metering infrastructure.” The new meters are designed to eventually help the company move forward with various smart grid technologies. This increase was about 1.8 percent. The new meters are being installed in Ada and Canyon counties now, and will work east with eventual replacement of all meters in three years.
To read the PUC’s news release on the increases, go to:
II: IDACORP Posts Shareholder Meeting Audio, Transcript Online
IDACORP, the parent company of Idaho Power, recently posted the transcript of its May 21 annual shareholders meeting online. At the meeting, shareholders approved an advisory resolution directing the company to report by Sept. 30 how it plans to begin reducing its greenhouse gas emissions in the face of coming federal mandates on carbon reduction. The core of the resolution says:
“Shareholders request that the Board of Directors adopt quantitative goals, based on current technologies, for reducing total greenhouse gas emissions from the Company’s products and operations; and that the Company report to shareholders by September 30, 2009, on its plans to achieve these goals. Such a report will omit proprietary information and be prepared at reasonable cost.”
IDACORP management recommended the measure be rejected on grounds it would be more prudent to wait to see what Congress passes in the area of carbon restrictions and requirements that utilities include certain amounts of renewable energy in their portfolios. Progressive shareholder groups, led by As You Sow, Trillium, and Calvert, argued that the company’s reluctance to act proactively exposes it, its shareholders, and its customers to increased financial risk. Such resolutions rarely pass.
”This record-breaking vote of 52% is a dramatic show of investor support for a
climate change resolution,” said Dan Bakal, director of electric power programs at
Ceres, a national coalition of investors and environmental groups. The IDACORP
vote is 25% higher than the highest vote on any U.S. climate change resolution
”The vote for the resolution indicates that shareholders are concerned that
IDACORP is not prepared to address the increasing probability of strict federal
regulation of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Michael Passoff, Associate
Director of As You Sow.
Lily Donge, senior analyst at Calvert noted that “companies all across the country
are planning to reduce carbon emissions and capitalize on renewable energy
opportunities. Now IDACORP will have to do so as well.”
“Few customers realize that Idaho Power is primarily coal power and that its
plans to meet growth by adding a natural gas plant would both increase its
exposure to emissions regulation and the open market on which it would need to
purchase the natural gas,” said Kiki Tidwell, a shareholder from Ketchum who
spoke at the annual meeting.
Lauren McLean, Portfolio Manager at Trillium Asset Management summed it up:
“This historic vote sends a loud and clear message that investors, in light of
impending climate regulation, are no longer asking how much it’ll cost to reduce
carbon, but instead how much money their companies can make doing it.”
To hear the audio or read the transcript, go to:
III: Resource Plans: PacifiCorp Files While PUC Gives Idaho Power More Time
PacifiCorp, which does business in eastern Idaho as Rocky Mountain Power, has filed its biannual IRP with the Idaho PUC and regulators in Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and California. Meanwhile, the PUC granted Idaho Power’s request to delay its filing while the company recalculates its projected growth in energy demand in light of the recession and how it will deal with a proposed transmission line from Canyon County to the Columbia Gorge.
Integrated Resource Plans are filed with the PUC every other year in Idaho. While not binding on utilities, they are designed to serve as roadmaps on how utilities will meet future load growth and what kinds of resources it plans to use.
For instance, PacifiCorp’s IRP envisions acquiring 1,313MW of new wind during the 2009-2018 time frame, along with 35MW of geothermal and 75MW in major hydroelectric upgrades. It also projects new energy efficiency savings and load control programs, as well as additions in gas and coal plant turbine upgrades.
In the case of Idaho Power, the company put its IRP Advisory Committee on hold for the spring and early summer while it computes updated load forecasts to reflect stagnant growth in the wake of the recession. The company has also hit some regulatory hurdles in Oregon with its proposed “Boardman to Hemingway” transmission line that is designed to better connect southwest Idaho and the Boardman area near the Columbia River. Various communities have complained they were not adequately informed about the project by Idaho Power, so the company has set up an expanded public outreach effort.
PacifiCorp’s just-filed 2008 IRP can be found at: http://www.pacificorp.com/Navigation/Navigation23807.html
The PUC’s order in the Idaho Power case can be found at:
IV: Elmore County Commission to Discuss Nuke Plant Rezone Monday
The Elmore County Commission will take up Alternate Energy Holdings Inc.’s rezoning request for its proposed nuclear plant Monday morning, but a decision is not expected. AEHI wants the county to rezone about 1,300 acres of prime agricultural land above the Snake River from agricultural to heavy industrial to accommodate the plant. The county’s Planning and Zoning Commission has already recommended the County Commission reject the rezoning because it is a blatant violation of the county’s comprehensive plan. AEHI CEO Don Gillispie has said he’ll abandon his effort to build his 1,600MW reactor at the site if the commission doesn’t grant the rezoning request.
If the Commission approves the rezoning, AEHI would then need to file a conditional use permit on the reactor project. That would trigger a new round of public participation opportunities.
On Monday, commissioners will discuss the application from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in their chambers at the Elmore County Courthouse at 150 S. Fourth E. in Mountain Home. The Twin Falls Times News reported this week that county officials will likely continue their discussion at a later date and will not vote on the matter Monday. County officials also said they will not take public testimony Monday, as they held a lengthy public hearing last month.
V: Boise Mayor Proposes Green Business Incubator Downtown
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said this week he wants the city to open an incubator to spur green business development in the city. In his annual state of the city address, Bieter said he’d like to use a soon-to-be vacant building downtown for the venture. If built the proposed “Green House” at 5th and Idaho in Boise would join a similar incubator developed by developer Mark Rivers, who created the nonprofit WaterCooler incubator on the west side of downtown one year ago.
Bieter said he envisions the Green House to complement the WaterCooler, not compete with it. He said he sees the city entrepreneur development project as a first phase to help would-be businesses in the earliest stages of development, with the WaterCooler moving their projects closer to fruition. Developers would have access to various donated services such as legal advice and accounting help.
Here’s an excerpt from the mayor’s remarks:
We in city government don’t create innovation, but we can create the environment where innovation happens – supporting and nurturing the new companies that are rising up to take the place of old. So I’m pleased to announce this morning a plan we’re calling The Green House: an incubator for local, alternative-energy startups. Having seen the success of Mark Rivers’ WaterCooler business incubator, in which the City of Boise was an investor, I’m going to propose that we use a City-owned building at Fifth and Idaho streets to help a green-energy economy germinate and grow right here in Boise.
In a related development, Bieter announced that Alloway Electric, in partnership with Inovus, was the low bidder in the city’s plan (funded with federal stimulus money) to retrofit 725 historic Boise streetlights with LED lights.
On The Agenda:
► The Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on June 15 and 26. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us. The meetings typically start at 1:30 p.m.
► The Public Utilities Commission will also hold public hearings June 16 in Moscow and June 17 in Coeur d’Alene on Avista Utilities’ request for a rate increase. The PUC will also hold a technical hearing June 29 at its Boise headquarters hearing room at 472 W. Washington. Avista is seeking a 12.8 percent electric rate increase and a 3 percent gas rate hike. But it is also asking for a decrease in its annual electric power cost adjustment, which would lower the electric rate increase to 7.8 percent. Besides taking oral testimony at the public hearings, the PUC is also accepting written comments though July 1. To review the application and related documents, go to www.pub.idaho.gov and then “file room” and then “electric cases” and scroll down to AVU-E-09-01.